A mundane message left moments before her death undermine the police theory that she encountered a robber at the W and was forced to drive
The mystery of Ronni Chasen's death deepened Tuesday evening, when TheWrap learned that the longtime Hollywood publicist left a run-of-the-mill voicemail at her office minutes before she was ruthlessly gunned down while driving home.
Alana Kass, a publicist with Chasen & Co, said that Chasen, 64, left a long, strictly work-related message on the office voicemail sometime after midnight.
“I heard the message myself,” Kass told TheWrap. “It was a completely standard, normal message from Ronni about events coming up, guestlists, who to send invites to.”
Around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, Chasen was shot five times in the chest at the intersection of Sunset and Whittier in Beverly Hills, barely five miles from the party. Police still had no suspects or motive as of late Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, more than 100 of Chasen's friends gathered Tuesday night at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to remember and toast her. Guests were understandably shaken, with the conversation changing from sadness and shock to the dangerous intersections of Los Angeles.
But most of all they talked about the person they had lost.
"She was a very saucy woman," said virtual-game producer Michael Ameen, who worked with her at Rogers & Cowan when he was 21 and she was 32. "And just had it all in spades, really. And that's why she was such a magnet for talent."
"She was one of the last few people in Hollywood who had panache and savoir faire," Ameen added. "Remember savoir faire? Ronni had savoir faire."
He said she had called a journalist just Tuesday to "zing him" for not mentioning one of her clients in a story.
Over at Summit Entertainment's awards-season kickoff party, guests took a moment to remember Chasen, who almost certainly would've been in attendance.
"Ronni's been a friend for 30-plus years," Summit Entertainment Co-Chairman and CEO Rob Friedman said. "She would've been here tonight. We see her everywhere and she's a smiling face and a consummate professional and it was just, I was, I mean, I'm still numb about it. … It hasn't sunk in yet because she was ever-present. … I think over time is when we're gonna start to miss her when she's not there."
Chasen's late-model Mercedes-Benz E350 was found crashed into a light pole just minutes after she left the voicemail at Chasen & Co. Kass said the publicist did not sound frightened or threatened.
Earlier in the evening, Chasen had attended the premiere at Grauman’s Chinese of “Burlesque,” a Sony/Screen Gems film starring Cher and Christina Aguilera. Photos show her on the red carpet in a dark pantsuit and an open-collared shirt.
She then attended the afterparty at Drai’s, a club at the W Hotel, less than a mile away.
She dropped her car at the valet, talked to friends including fellow publicist Vivian Mayer, producer Donald DeLine and Chasen’s client, composer Diane Warren. She left at some point before midnight.
SEE SLIDESHOW: Ronni Chasen's Last Moments at the 'Burlesque' Afterparty
Police said they searched Chasen's home and office on Tuesday afternoon. "We don't have anything at this point," said Sgt. Lincoln Hoshino of the Bevery Hills police department. "The investigation is 12 hours old."
Police did not, however, contact the W Hotel, general manager Jim McPartlin told TheWrap. McPartlin said there was adequate security outside of Drai's, the club on Hollywood Boulevard belonging to the hotel, where around 600 people gathered for the post-premiere party at about 11 p.m.
It is unknown if Chasen left the party alone.
Chasen lived in Westwood, and was likely driving home when she was shot. People who lived nearby told the Los Angeles Times that they heard rapid gunfire and ran to the car, where Chasen, whose window was shattered, was still alive and breathing heavily but not responsive.
It wasn't immediately clear whether the car was moving when she was shot, and no one else was in it when police arrived.
The detail of the "ordinary" work phone message suggests that Chasen was either alone or shot by someone in the car who she knew and trusted.
But Kass said “I wouldn’t know why she’d have someone in her car at that time. I have no idea. I wouldn’t assume that.”
Chasen wasn't known to be dating anyone at the time of her death, her friends told TheWrap. She was the sister of Larry Cohen, a successful genre screenwriter and director whose credits include "Phone Booth."
People close to Chasen said police were working on a few theories, primarily that someone might have encountered her outside the W Hotel. They're also considering a road-rage incident, though Chasen's friends consider that antithetical to her personality.
But others speculated that the violence of the crime, and that fact that it has been reported that her purse was still in the car, suggested a deliberate hit.
Though no one had a clue as to why anyone might want Ronni Chasen — much loved, well-known and hardly a threat — gone.
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